Saturday, May 28, 2016

Anne, Peter & Ratty

In a previous post I mentioned that I often think of my childhood when walking the pond. If I'm not thinking about my childhood, it's quite possible that I'm thinking about a book. When the flora and fauna remind me of specific characters or settings, I can't help but be swept away into the land of story.

Naturally, the wild cherry tree dipping benevolently across my path reminded me of dear Anne Shirley and her first exchange with Mr. Matthew Cuthbert:

I'm very glad to see you. I was beginning to be afraid you weren't coming for me and I was imagining all the things that might have happened to prevent you. I had made up my mind that if you didn't come for me to-night I'd go down the track to that big wild cherry-tree at the bend, and climb up into it to stay all night. I wouldn't be a bit afraid, and it would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry-tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don't you think?

~Anne of Green Gables~

The trees are no longer "white with bloom in the moonshine." Indeed, the fruit is already maturing nicely. I noticed the same on a wild crab apple tree.

After I passed beneath the cherry boughs, a skittish fellow darted across the path. He didn't appreciate the camera, so we'll just have to work with this image of naughty Peter Rabbit heading toward Mr. McGregor's garden.

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, 
went down the lane to gather blackberries. But Peter, who was very naughty, 
ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate!
~The Tale of Peter Rabbit~ 

The white tail that flashed into view as the rabbit leapt away might have suggested that this was not Peter after all, but Cotton-tail; he was heading toward the blackberry bushes. (Which, incidentally, are still "white with bloom.") But upon my return (I thought I might catch him on my second lap), he had "squeezed under the gate!" No doubt in pursuit of "some lettuces and French beans."

Because I was in literary mode, the mother duck and her ducklings brought to mind Ratty's composition in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows:

The Rat was sitting on the river bank, singing a little song. He had just composed it himself, so he was very taken up with it . . . .

All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling, 
Up tails all!

The song meanders a bit and, according to Mole, "I don't know that I think so very much of that little song, Rat," so we'll just include one stanza.

A brief visit to my log before heading home provided a few minutes of quiet. I even brought a book this time, and I'm enjoying the third of James Herriot's delightful veterinary tales, All Things Wise and Wonderful.

How glad I am that "the Lord God made them all," and that He gifted us with the delightful world of story.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Like Spun Glass

I slowly approached, expecting the sprite to dart in the opposite direction. But it stayed. It shivered. Puzzled, I looked more closely and saw that

With its blue jointed body,
And wings like spun glass,

. . . this was a newly emerged dragonfly. I was slightly revolted by his nearby nymphal shell. What a good trade he had made. His wings were indeed like spun glass, shimmering moist and delicate in the spring sunshine. A new freedom just within reach.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Of Mauves, Mustards, and Magentas

It's interesting to me how my thoughts often wander to my childhood as I walk the pond. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps it's rooted in the fact that I'm sentimental, and the quiet of my surroundings allows my mind to drift toward the events, beliefs, and people who have in some way influenced who I am today.

Jamie and I are intrigued by our seemingly opposing natures which, in general, prompt me to look back and Jamie to look forward. We're like Jack Sprat and his wife -- the platter of time is licked clean and we appreciate the perspective the other provides.

Which brings me to the color mauve. Lest this transition confuse you, I'll add that we're going back, once again, to my childhood.

Do you remember the color analysis trend that gained popularity in the 80s? My mom's friends very much appreciated the movement, and color swatches were draped and exchanged with unparalleled fervor. It fascinated me. Lorrie would come to our house, arms laden with gorgeous samples, and drape anyone and everyone in her wake. We'd ooh- and ahh- and say, "Oh, she's such a winter!" or "She's definitely a spring. Just look at the way that aqua complements her skin tones!" Ann would hold the periwinkle swatch under her chin and we'd weep and sigh over the beauty of it all.

I took great pride in being labeled "A Winter" and wore the distinction like a banner. No, I just can't wear mustard, I'm A Winter; it just wouldn't be becoming. I'm sorry, I must pass on that rust, no matter how fetching. Dear, you musn't wear the puce, it positively drains your face! But please pass me some hearty fuchsias or teals. (It was many years before I allowed myself to wear brown. I realized that I just plain liked the color and wanted to wear it. Also, I'm a little bit scared to wear red.)

This steady stream of color talk around my impressionable preteen mind prompted me to develop an appreciation for specific color names. Names like amber, salmon, chartreuse and mauve. Your basic ROYGBIV just didn't cut it any more.

This is what I noticed as I walked today. I noticed the mauve hues of the heavily blooming grasses, the mustard rods of the newly developing cattails, the gentle, fuzzy slate of the lupine seedpods, the deep magenta of the baby rose . . . and even the charmingly distressed brick red of the devoted gardener's ever-present wheelbarrow. I'm so thankful for color, aren't you?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Northwest Wetlands Garden

I was probably close to Avery's age when I learned the song, "English Country Garden." Our church (as I recall) was having a Mother-Daughter Tea, and my ever-involved mother thought it would be lovely to recruit a chorus of darling girls to serenade the event. My sister and I, always up for a shindig, eagerly donned calicos, tied ribbons in our braids, and memorized the repertoire (which also included "Tea for Two").

I wish I could remember more of the event, but what I do know is that lyrics have a way of sticking with me. Whenever I see foxgloves or snowdrops, I see them in melody. (Similarly, whenever I look through the books of the New Testament, I sing my way through Paul's letters. And thank goodness for the melody that enabled me to master the order of the minor prophets.)

Sister and I walked the pond this afternoon, and the foxglove in bloom brought the song once again to mind.

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
I'll tell you now of some I know
And those I miss I hope you'll pardon.
Daffodils, heart's ease and flox
Meadowsweet and lady smocks
Gentle lupine and tall hollihocks
There are foxgloves, snowdrops, forget-me-nots
In an English country garden.

I think that's the version I learned, although I've seen a few variations.

My own Northwest wetlands version would probably go something like this:

How many kinds of wildflowers grow
In a Northwest wetlands garden?
I'll tell you now of some I've seen
And those I miss I hope you'll pardon:
Blackberry and wild, wild rose,
Clover, daisies -- lots of those,
Lupine, poppies like cups of gold,
Hawthorne, foxgloves, Anne's lace, and lilies bold
In a Northwest wetlands garden.

There was no calico today, but there was a darling girl of ten (sans braids) who didn't mind my foxglove serenade one bit. "How many kinds of sweet flowers grow . . . ."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Catching Grace

"Do you ever bring your Bible to your log?" he wondered.

I actually hadn't considered it, but once suggested, it seemed to be the perfectly logical thing to do. I had been describing for Aidan "my log," (which is really anyone and everyone's log) and my habit of taking a minute to sit and pray, especially when the trail is still and quiet.

At times I follow the advice I learned from Elisabeth Elliot, who suggested taking a moment to open one's hands in a gesture of release. I clutch so much in this life that a little surrender is always a good idea.

So I sit on my log, tuck my knees up under my chin, rest my hands on either side of me, palms up, and release.

Here's the miraculous thing about such a posture: when we open our hands in surrender, emptiness, and release, those same hands also happen to be open to receive.

I receive the warmth of the spring sunshine and the assurance that every good gift that the Lord has in mind for me, He will give. I catch grace.

"Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; 
you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall."
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day

My family fed me delicious food for Mother's Day and then kicked me out of the kitchen. While they did the dishes and put the finishing touches on dessert, I (naturally) "took to the woods."

A fairly decent breeze met me, and I felt rather romantic as my loose hair and long skirt were whipped and whirled by the spritely fairies of the air. It was all extremely Waterhouse-esque, and I might have been Juliet, Miranda, or The Lady of Shalott.  

As I pulled my jean jacket even more tightly around my body, I thought of the story my mom used to tell about the great contest between the sun and the wind. They had a bet, you see. Each wanted to be the strongest. To prove their might, the sun and wind decided to see which one could cause the man walking upon the earth to remove his jacket. The wind went first. He stormed and blew, huffed and puffed, whirled and whistled with all his might. But the man only clung all the more desperately to his jacket.

Then the sun took his turn. He gently, slowly sent his bright, warm rays to the earth. In no time at all, the man wiped his brow, glanced up at the glowing orb in the sky and removed his jacket. There is great might in gentleness.

I continued to think of my mother as I rounded the bend and saw the mother duck and her little ducklings making their way across the pond.

The next bend brought me to a lovely area that's tended by a woman whose backyard meets the path. She diligently nurtures a beautiful array of flowers, and it was the irises that caught my eye this time. My mom's mom -- my Noni -- loved purple irises. She called them "flags," and I think of her whenever I see them.

It was a very fitting touch on Mother's Day, and the memory of her and the gentle strength of my own mother warmed me -- in spite of the breeze -- as I headed home to my little ducklings (and a pretty amazing chocolate cake).

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Small Place of Enchantment

Numerous circumstances have kept me away from this little blog space for far too long, but my recent strolls about the pond have made the words of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings come vibrantly to life, so I must briefly pop in and share.

I do not understand how any one can live without 
some small place of enchantment to turn to.
(Cross Creek)

I often marvel that I need only walk about a block and a half down the street in order to enter my own small place of enchantment.

At times the pond is alive with human activity, and at other times -- such as yesterday morning -- it is completely empty. I violated that non-human atmosphere by traipsing (reverently) throughout the wetland paths, and found in that solitude another inner land of enchantment.

To be quite alone where there are no other human beings is sharply exhilarating; 
it is as though some pressure had suddenly been lifted, 
allowing an intense awareness of one's surroundings, a sharpening of the senses, 
and an intimate recognition of the teeming sub-human life around one.
(Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water)

The "subhuman life" of late is most noticeable in the more vocal creatures. The bullfrogs chorus (in the key of F), their sonorous cello-like rasping greeting us at all hours of the day. The red-winged blackbirds call out persistently to one another, inflating their middles so that the scarlet patches on their wings grossly expand. The proud mother duck is training her ten little ducklings how to be successful ducks. There is much frantic flapping as the fleet traverses the pond.

My eye is drawn mostly now to the generous supply of lupine blanketing the landscape. The tall violet spires attract bumblebees and photographers alike, each hoping to somehow gather the sweetness of each small place of enchantment.